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How does Charles Dickens show dislike for the education system and concerns about childhood in 'Nicholas Nickleby'?

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How does Charles Dickens show dislike for the education system and concerns about childhood in 'Nicholas Nickleby'? Charles Dickens wrote many novels, many of which contained serious moral messages about life at the time. He particularly liked to focus on the treatment of children, and Nicolas Nickleby is no exception. It seems likely that the reason so many of his books were focused on the treatment of children is because of his experiences as a child. His father was put in prison when Dickens was twelve and he then had to spend a few years working in a blacking warehouse on a salary of only six shillings a week. His mother had taught him to read at a young age and his father owned many books, with these three things combined, it seems unsurprising that Dickens wrote many books and of this genre. With Nicolas Nickleby, written at a time when there were no laws protecting children and they were all but slaves to their parents or guardians, it was a moral message to the people about the poor treatment of children at the time. Dickens uses many techniques to have us feeling the same way as he had about the welfare and treatment of children. ...read more.


Dickens also portrays Squeers as a greedy character, At the mention of the possibility of six boys being enrolled in his 'school', he immediately puts great amounts of energy into trying to rope them in. '...those six boys... for twenty guineas a year...' presents Squeers as a character who just wants more and more, never happy with what he has already got but just keeps wanting more. This creates even more sympathy from the reader towards the boys as the reader knows that Squeers will continuously rope in more and more victims for his gain. When we are first told about Dotheboys Hall in the newspaper advert, the first thing the reader notices is the strange name which gives us a strange foreboding about the place before we even know anything about it. After reading the rest of the advert, it sounds like it could be a potentially nice place. '...at the delightful village...' Use of such positive adjectives makes it sound not all that bad. When we actually see Dotheboys Hall, any positive opinions we may have had of it are quickly replaced by thoughts of a very unattractive looking mess. As Squeers says, 'It ain't really a hall...we call it that in London to make it sound better.' ...read more.


This character was originally one of the students at Dotheboys Hall but the payments then stopped coming and so Squeers kept him as a slave. When we see Smike for the second time is when we get a real impression about how sad his life has been. When Nicolas looks at him what he sees is a look that was '...a very painful one...for it told a long and very sad history.' This shows that there is no limit as to how low a child's welfare can drop in all things positive as Smike has dropped from being a over punished pupil, to a cruelly treated slave. The readers reaction to this is clearly one of compassion for the character, and then for children in similar situations in real life. To conclude, this book quite possibly has an important historical context as to how the lives of children have changed in Britain since that time. There is a good chance it may have changed the opinions of many of its readers and informed those who were unaware and opened the eyes of the people who were turning a blind one. The fact that it could have had such affect on the matter of the treatment of children makes it clear to me that Dickens wrote this book far more as a message to the people, than just as a source of monetary gain. ...read more.

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